Fight against Infectious Disease

The Fight against Infectious Disease

Infectious disease has been a major cause of disfigurement, pain and death over time. For thousands of years the cause of such illnesses was not fully understood. Societies had a wide range of explanations for these killers and subsequently had mixed results at combating them.

The eighteen century saw the beginning of a revolution in combating these diseases. Ideas, often taken from the east, were adapted with success. These were not always fully understood, though the outcome of prevention did become clear. From Jenner’s first, widely opposed, uses of a vaccine against smallpox through to modern research, there has been a steady stream of successes in the fight against infectious disease.

Edward Jenner and Smallpox. The Fight Against Infectious Disease

Below you will find the stories behind some of the best known successes. This unit concentrates largely on the Industrial Revolution and period up to 1900. Since then, some diseases have been eradicated. Smallpox, once a world wide killer to be feared, is no longer something to be afraid of.

Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccination

Edward Jenner and Smallpox
Edward Jenner and the Smallpox Vaccination

Discover how Jenner took a risk and became world famous for developing a vaccine for Smallpox. Now eradicated, the vaccine was widely opposed at first.
Louis Pasteur and Germ Theory

Pasteur Germ Theory
Louis Pasteur and Germ Theory

Germ Theory. Arguably the biggest scientific breakthrough in the development of medical knowledge. Find out how Pasteur achieved it here.
Robert Koch

Robert Koch
Robert Koch

The founder of modern bacteriology, Koch identified diseases such as Tuberculosis, Cholera and Anthrax. Discover the impact of his work here.
Vaccination: a History

Vaccinations
Vaccination: a History

Vaccines are commonplace now but are relatively new to the western world. Explore the origins and development of vaccination in this unit.
Gerhard Domagk and Prontosil

Domagk Prontosil
Gerhard Domagk and Prontosil

Ever taken an antibiotic? You have Gerhard Domagk to thank for your treatment. 1939 Nobel Prize winner for medicine for this breakthrough.
Alexander Fleming and the discovery of Penicillin

Alexander Fleming Penicillin Time Magazine Cover
Alexander Fleming and the discovery of Penicillin

A tiny mistake that led to a revolutionary chance discovery. Discover how Feming discovered Penicillin and the struggles he had developing it.
Florey, Chain and the development of Penicillin

Florey Chain Penicillin
Florey, Chain and the development of Penicillin

See how a team led by Florey and Chain took up the mantle of developing Penicillin and turning it into a staple of many medicine cabinets.
Penicillin: a wonder drug?

Penicillin Wonder Drug
Penicillin: a wonder drug?

How significant was the development of Penicillin? An assessment of the impact of its use.
Paul Ehrlich and the Magic Bullet

Ehrlich Salvarsan 606
Paul Ehrlich and the Magic Bullet

Ehrlich devised a revolutionary combination of biology, chemistry and medicine. Using dyes, he traced the way that illnesses fought the body. The results included the invention of chemotherapy.

Selected timeline of vaccines against infectious diseases

1797 – Smallpox

1879 – Cholera

1885 – Rabies

1890 – Tetanus

1896 – Typhoid Fever

1897 – Bubonic Plague

1921 – Tubercolosis

1923 – Diptheria

1945 – Influenza

1952 – Polio

1954 – Anthrax

1963 – Measles

1967 – Rubella

1974 – Chicken Pox

Other vaccines were introduced in the period selected above. Many have also been introduced since 1974. The sole reason for stopping at that date is purely as there is a rough plan to do something about vaccinations and changes to them over the course of my lifetime. As I was born at the end of 1973, the Chicken Pox vaccine seemed a logical place to stop.

Vaccines being introduced does not necessarily mean that they are widely available or accessible. Having one approved does not mean it is on the shelf ready for distribution and use across the whole of a country. As an example, the last of those vaccines came into being before my first birthday. I had chicken pox when I was 5 or 6 so presume that I had not been vaccinated against it by that time.